Citizen science

Citizen science (also known as crowd science, crowd-sourced science, or networked science) is scientific research conducted, in whole or in part, by amateur or nonprofessional scientists, often by crowdsourcing. Formally, citizen science has been defined as “the systematic collection and analysis of data; development of technology; testing of natural phenomena; and the dissemination of these activities by researchers on a primarily avocational basis“. Citizen science is sometimes called “public participation in scientific research.

Everyone can participate in science!

Citizen science activities

Citizen-science activities can take many forms:

Citizen science may be performed by individuals, teams, or networks of volunteers. Citizen scientists often partner with professional scientists to achieve common goals. Large volunteer networks often allow scientists to accomplish tasks that would be too expensive or time consuming to accomplish through other means. Volunteers increasingly find opportunities to participate in science by visiting websites such as SciStarter, the largest online collection of citizen science projects.

Citizen science networks are often involved in the observation of cyclic events of nature (phenology), such as effects of global warming on plant and animal life in different geographic areas, and in monitoring programs for natural-resource management.

Many citizen-science projects serve education and outreach goals, engagement in scientific research. These projects may be designed for a formal classroom environment or an informal education environment such as museums.

In recent years, citizen science projects have become increasingly focused on benefits to scientific research.

New technology

Many citizen-science projects are now taking advantage of mobile phones and other consumer electronic devices with recording capabilities for easy data collection. Examples include the San Francisco project, the WildLab, iNaturalist, and Project Noah iPhone apps for monitoring birds, marine wildlife, and other organisms, and the NASA meteor counter app.

The Internet has also been a boon to citizen science, particularly through gamification. Internet-based citizen-science include NASA’s Stardust@home, Clickworkers, SETILive, CosmoQuest, and various Zooniverse projects such as Galaxy Zoo, Foldit, and the Phylo video game. National Geographic has an archeology project, Field Expedition: Mongolia, in which users tag potential archeological dig sites on GeoEye satellite images, to assist explorers on the ground in Mongolia. EyeWire users help scientists trace neurons through the retina, with the goal of creating a full retinal connectome.

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